The recent blue-green algae bloom that caused a shutdown of the public water system in Toledo, Ohio has brought overdue public attention to our own algae troubles in Lake Champlain. (With an undertone of sneering about the industrial Midwest’s environmental stewardship.) Various media outlets have asked the musical question, “Could it happen here?” And they’ve dutifully reported the bland reassurances of local officials and the warning cries from advocacy groups.
But one media outlet took a unique step, and discovered that hell yes, it’s already happening here.
Or near here, anyway. In last week’s edition of Seven Days, Kathryn Flagg surveyed the landscape for traces of blue-green… and her search took her to the upper end of the lake – over the border in Quebec.
Though drinking water from Lake Champlain on this side of the border has never tested positive for the toxins associated with blue-green algae, some Québec residents routinely receive notices that their water is not safe to drink.
… “I’ve lived in Bedford since 2004, and it happens every summer,” said Aleksandra Drizo, a research fellow at the University of Vermont…
Wow, I thought to myself. That’s really bad. A lot worse than Toledo, right?
And then I thought, Wait a minute. Doesn’t Lake Champlain flow north?
Flagg’s article didn’t say, but another story in Seven Days confirmed my thought.
So… our gunk is poisoning their water.
Which ought to make us clean, natural and green Vermonters ashamed and embarrassed. We’re exporting our environmental damage. And because our gunk is (at least partly) flowing northward, we don’t suffer the consequences.
That’s appalling. And it’s one more sign that Vermont’s pure-green reputation isn’t nearly as deserved as we like to think.